Wednesday, January 20, 2021
35.0°F

Stoltze manager reflects on 45 years in timber industry

by JEREMY WEBER
Daily Inter Lake | December 14, 2020 12:00 AM

After 45 years in the timber industry, Chuck Roady has decided it’s time to step aside and care for his own land. The vice president and general manager of F.H. Stoltze Land and Lumber Company in Columbia Falls for the past 17 years, Roady will retire at the end of the month.

“We have assembled a terrific team at F.H. Stoltze and I have tremendous optimism that the group we have put together will continue to do the right things in the right way,” Roady said. “For me, the timing just seems right.”

A 1975 graduate of the University of Idaho’s College of Forestry, Roady has spent his career advocating for the proper use and management of forests. Always an outdoor enthusiast, Roady became determined at a young age to find a job that would keep him in the environment he so loves.

“I had these aspirations that I was going to be a guide and an outfitter since I love the outdoors so much. It didn’t take me long to realize that probably wasn't going to happen,” he said. “I eventually decided to go into forestry, since I figured that was as close as I could get to the woods and the mountains.”

Roady’s first job after college came with the Pack River Company in Northern Idaho, where he took on a number of duties in the Bonners Ferry and Sandpoint areas, including procurement, buying logs, taking care of company land and dealing with logging contractors.

“At that point in time, a forester did a little bit of everything, but it was a great place to both live and work,” Roady said.

When the Pack River Company was purchased by W-I Forest Products in 1979, Roady made the transition and soon found himself serving as the resource manager for the area north of Coeur d'Alene. Roady again found himself working for new ownership in 1993 when W-I Forest Products was bought by Crown Pacific, this time making the transition to Division Manager for Oregon before being promoted to Lands Acquisitions and Special Projects Manager.

More than two decades into his career, Roady found himself unemployed in March 2002 when Crown Pacific was acquired by the timber investment management organization Forest Capital Partners, which did not retain any senior management positions.

“I may have bounced around a little bit over the years, but it was not intentional. You just have to deal with whatever life brings you,” Roady said. “I actually felt pretty fortunate getting to stick around through the first three company sales, but I guess luck runs out eventually.”

Having known and competed against the folks at the F.H. Stoltze Land and Lumber Company, the oldest private family-owned timber company in Montana, Roady quickly said yes when he was asked to come onboard there in 2003.

While the new job brought a host of new responsibilities, Roady continued his tireless advocacy for the proper management of forest lands.

“Constantly improving the sawmill and keeping up with technology was a big thing with the new job, but the biggest focus of my career has been trying to get federal lands back under active management,” he said. “Post World War II until the 1980s, we actively managed the national forests and then we went through an era where we slowed down and nearly stopped actively managing our forests. Now, we are all paying for it with these tremendous fires. We did a great job of being Smokey Bear and putting out the fires, but we just didn’t follow it up with proper management. If we don’t manage the forest, it will manage us.”

To Roady, the need for proper forest management is obvious.

“To a forester, it only makes common sense that we need to take care of our lands, but there are a lot of people out there who thought it was best not to do anything and, unfortunately, we are all paying the price for it now. It’s our job to do the best job we can to take care of these resources so we can pass them down to the next generation,” he said.

In his pursuit of proper forest management, Roady has served as a member of several groups over the years, including being a founding member, and later chairman, of the Federal Forest Resource Coalition. A board of 15 people from around the country that work with the federal government to try to manage the national forests, the Coalition began meeting informally in 2009 and 2010 before its formal launch in 2011. With members in more than two dozen states, the members employ more than 350,000 workers in more than 650 mills, with payroll in excess of $19 billion.

“There was a group of us that got together and decided we had to do something. If we didn’t, between the bugs and wildfires, there wasn’t going to be any national forests left. So, we put our mouths and our money where our desires were in an effort to save what forests we have left,” Roady said. “We’ve been pretty successful, bringing back a little more management every year, but politics is pretty tough. There is such a large population that doesn’t live near a national forest, so their only exposure to lack of management is when they see the six o'clock news with all of the terrible fires in the West. They don’t experience the smoke or have to be afraid when the fire comes over the ridge headed for their homes. Many people see foresters as individuals who simply want to cut down trees and that is not the case at all. You have to properly take care of the forests and, if you don’t, then you won’t have forests anymore.”

It was in working to help people understand the importance of forest management that Roady found what he called the most enjoyable part of his career — meeting and getting to know different types of people.

“There are so many people in our profession that are very, very good and are die-hard stewards of the land. Then, there are a whole group of people who don’t understand our industry or forestry or wildlife management, which is also very important to me. Meeting people and trying to get them to understand that all of these aspects go hand in hand has been a challenge that I have loved and that I am going to miss very much,” he said. “Some people just don’t understand the importance of the timber industry. I’ve heard people complain about them cutting down the forest as they sit down at a wooden picnic table to eat wood-smoked barbecue off a paper plate. People really don’t understand just how many wood products they use in a day.”

After spending a career caring for public lands and now with a lot of free time on the horizon, Roady says he is now looking forward to taking care of his own forest land in the Kootenai River Valley in Bonners Ferry while spending time with his family.

“I want my kids and my grandkids to have the same opportunities I’ve had to enjoy the mountains and the forests and the wildlife and to be able to hunt and fish climb the same mountains I have,” he said. “It’s what drives me.”

Reporter Jeremy Weber may be reached at 758-4446 or jweber@dailyinterlake.com.